Former President Barack Obama and first lady Michelle Obama continue to inspire Americans beyond their time in the White House, and their official portraits are no exception. Standing onstage at the Smithsonian’s National Portrait Gallery in Washington, D.C., on Monday morning, the couple watched as their official portraits were unveiled. And while some on Twitter said the paintings inspired a sense of “hope,” Barack couldn’t help but notice his wife’s “hotness.”
Side by side, the portraits of Barack and Michelle painted by Kehinde Wiley and Amy Sherald, respectively — each selected by his and her subject — were uncovered in front of an awestruck audience, before the Obamas and the artists took the podium to speak about the art. The collaborative work that went into each of the paintings was revealed in the sentiments of all of the speakers. But the most relatable expression of gratitude came from Barack himself.
“Amy, I want to thank you for so spectacularly capturing the grace and beauty and intelligence and charm and hotness of the woman I love,” Barack said with a chuckle, which incited quite the reaction on social media.
And closeup of Mrs Obama's portrait, which Pres Obama said captured her "hotness." pic.twitter.com/w2pn8H0p73
— Mark Knoller (@markknoller) February 12, 2018
So far during this portrait unveiling, Obama has said "sharp," "fly" and "hotness." God, I miss him!
— Nadra Nittle (@NadraKareem) February 12, 2018
Obama saying “Hotness Genes” when talking about Michelle made for a good Monday morning lol pic.twitter.com/AfudQDiDnc
— Hugo⭐️ (@MiVidaSeattle) February 12, 2018
Beyond Barack’s charismatic remark, however, are the most important recognitions of how historic these portraits are, and what they’ll mean to America’s youth. Michelle took to her own Instagram after the ceremony to share her gratitude for being recognized in such a remarkable way.
As a young girl, even in my wildest dreams, I never could have imagined this moment. Nobody in my family has ever had a portrait – there are no portraits of the Robinsons or the Shields from the South Side of Chicago. This is all a little bit overwhelming, especially when I think about all of the young people who will visit the National Portrait Gallery and see this, including so many young girls and young girls of color who don’t often see their images displayed in beautiful and iconic ways. I am so proud to help make that kind of history. But the fact is that none of this would be possible without the extraordinary artist and woman behind this portrait, @asherald. Thank you, Amy – it was a joy to work with you and get to know you.
A post shared by Michelle Obama (@michelleobama) on Feb 12, 2018 at 9:58am PST
“This is all a little bit overwhelming,” she wrote, “especially when I think about all of the young people who will visit the National Portrait Gallery and see this, including so many young girls and young girls of color who don’t often see their images displayed in beautiful and iconic ways. I am so proud to help make that kind of history.” And people on Twitter couldn’t agree more.
What Amy Sherald and Kehinde Wiley did with their portraits of Michelle and Barack Obama is iconic. The legend jumped out. pic.twitter.com/H4clrkTYe3
— Ira Madison III (@ira) February 12, 2018
An historic day as former President Barack and First Lady Michelle Obama’s national portraits unveiled. Done by two black artists. Kehinde Wiley and Amy Sherald. Breathtaking. pic.twitter.com/5D8KWPO0Dj
— Trymaine Lee (@trymainelee) February 12, 2018
And Amy Sherald has OUR Michelle looking so divinely royal in garb others wouldn’t deem so.
This is a reenvisioning of excellence for black girls everywhere-for everyone of us, and every one who couldn’t understand us. pic.twitter.com/Zmnq7pO7LK
— Brittany Packnett (@MsPackyetti) February 12, 2018
Regardless of partisanship, the Obama presidency broke historical barriers. The significance for the little brown boys and girls -and for Americans who believe in equal opportunities for all- who see their portraits hanging in the Smithsonian, cannot be overstated.
— Ana Navarro (@ananavarro) February 12, 2018
All in all, the historical context of each portrait is important — as are the personal touches on the paintings. While Wiley paid homage to the former president’s origins with each of the flowers in the work’s background, Sherald collaborated with designer Michelle Smith of Milly to portray the former first lady in one of the brand’s gowns.
Kehinde talked about his use of florals specifically, saying he chose flowers from Chicago, Kenya and Hawaii as his interpretation of "charting [Obama's] path on earth through these plants" https://t.co/7mVl2W78kY
— Christina Coleman (@ChrissyCole) February 12, 2018
— Tom & Lorenzo (@tomandlorenzo) February 12, 2018
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